Is it rational to believe in God? An interview with John Lennox

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Professor John Carson Lennox is an Irish mathematician, philosopher of science, Christian apologist and – last, but not least – Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford University as well as Pastoral Advisor of Green Templeton College and Fellow of Wycliffe Hall. Professor Lennox is known of being a leading voice defending the notion of the relationship between science and religion.

I think it is very rational to believe in God in fact I think that God is the foundation of rationality my major problem with atheism is that it undermines rationality because it tries to explain the universe from the bottom up in other words in a reductionistic way it tries to reduce everything to physical chemistry but I am not convinced at all that you can reduce questions of meaning to physics and chemistry I don't think physics and chemistry have that kind of explanatory power the obvious example of that is the moment we see anything in a language we infer intelligence and the very fact that we can do science is for me one of the biggest evidences that there is a God behind the universe that was the motivation of Copernicus and Kepler and Galileo and Newton they believed in a rational order that could be understood at least in part by a scientific mind because they believed in a low Giver behind the universe so I think it's really the other way around that atheism is not consistent with doing science whereas theism is completely consistent for doing science you're what I actually says is not quite that what he says as this universe is exactly what we'd expected to be if a bottom there is no good there is no evil there is no justice DNA just is and we dance to its music to my mind that statement is a logical contradiction because if there's no good and no evil why does he talk about cruelty what is cruelty where does he get his concept of good and evil he's destroyed it by saying there's no good and there's no evil secondly if we are simply dancing to the music of our DNA that it's a deterministic universe and of course rationality and meaning disappear so I find Dawkins signally unconvincing but your first part of the question about biologists I find very interesting because you mentioned the bad petitions of cosmologists often find it easier to believe in God well one of the reasons for that of course is the evidence for the fine-tuned universe and I think that that is a very important argument and need many of my atheist friends tell me this is your best argument from fine-tuning but you see a biologist has to begin with the physics and chemistry of the universe and in order to get the carbon to base life on you have to have a fine-tuned universe so logically no argument from biology can negate the arguments from physics and cosmology the trouble is many of my biological friends do not seem to be aware of the strength of the arguments from physics and cosmology and I think it's very important to emphasize that they assume they take for granted the fine-tuned universe and often because biology is more controversial in the public eye people think that if there's a biological problem with the existence of God then no scientific argument works I just don't think that's true how do I understand a financial universe well it's the idea that the basic constants of nature are have to be within a very very tiny range in ordered of carbon-based life now this is something that has been developed over the last 50 or 60 years in cosmology and it poses a problem the admission that there is fine-tuning is there my colleague at Oxford Roger Sir Roger Penrose has got the famous statement that if you're going to have a universe with the second law of thermodynamics the aim of the creator no Rogers not a theist is a humanist but he says the aim of the Creator has to be accurate to one part in 10 to the power 10 to the power 123 which is he points out is a number so big if you write a 1 here in a 0 and every elementary particle in the universe you can't even write it right so the problem is there now people try to solve it in different ways using multiverses and all this kind of stuff but that fine-tuning seems to be a fact to be reckoned with some physicists I know like Victor Stenger deny it but the majority of the tender accepted that's right he's using Alvin Plantinga is using a kind of Bayesian statistical argument based on Bayes theorem that the the probability of getting a fine-tuned universe the fact that we have a fine-tuned universe increases the probability of the existence of God because granted the existence of God you'd have a much higher probability of getting that yes III I think there's a lot of I mean philosophers argue as you know about applying Bayesian theory to theories and I still think reading it that if it's got a lot going for it and it appeals to logic you see if fine-tuning is likely on the hypothesis of there being a God then the existence of fine-tuning enhances the probability of there being a God well it depends which theory of evolution you're talking about are you talking about neo-darwinism yes well this is a huge topic as you very well know and I would say two things about it firstly whatever you believe about the status of evolutionary theory you cannot deduce atheism from it a biological theorem on the one hand and a worldview they're not even in the same category philosophically so it's very risky to try to deduce a worldview from a biological theorem in other words putting it more precisely than that the existence of a mechanism that does something natural selection mutation is not in itself an argument for the non-existence of a creator of that mechanism that's the first point so if you're going to do sathya so from evolutionary theory first of all it's got to be logically possible i deny that but secondly and here's the much more controversial thing neo-darwinism has got to bear all the weight that's put on it and I'm not convinced that it does and what I'm very interested is in reading some of the more recent literature coming out at the top of biology like James Shapiro evolution a 21st century viewpoint where he's raising all kinds of questions about neo-darwinism now I'm not a biologist but I read a lot of biology and I think the question marks are getting bigger and bigger the second point I'd make is there's been a great deal of confusion about the origin of life and the theory of evolution and Dawkins said for many years that evolution the blind automatic mechanism that Darwin discovered is responsible for the existence and the variation of life now the first part of that statement is wrong evolution neo-darwinian evolution depends on the existence of life to get going so it cannot be the explanation for the origin of life now Dawkins has more recently in his book the greatest show of Earth he has admitted that evolution cannot explain anything to do with the origin of life and that's good because I think that that's one of the most interesting areas to study but I'm a mathematician and as a mathematician we have a track record of skepticism about the adequacy of the evolutionary mechanism and saying that what Darwin observed that's not controversial because he observed it and we can observantly he observed variation and so on and so forth but whether that mechanism of random mutation and natural selection can create original information I think is very much a question on which the jury is out actually even though my theism my belief in God doesn't depend on it I think he's probably wrong actually because the research done though what's-her-name at Oxford only vieira pedrera on children in Japan I think proves they establishes the opposite of that but let me come to the substantive argument I think Dawkins is wrong for a whole series of reasons number one it is absolutely true that my parents were Christian but the next thing is they allowed me to think and they encouraged me very young to expose my thinking to alternative worldviews and I spent my entire life discussing with people that do not hold my worldview that's point number one simply dance that question secondly we all start somewhere I had a debate with Peter singer when this was his objection like Dawkins they all raised the same thing and he I told the audience about my parents that they were Christian but they allowed me to think and he said well there's my problem what religion you people you know if you grow up Christian you remain Christian the religion you grow up with so when I had the chance I said Peter tell us about your parents were they atheists and he said yes so I said you remained in the faith in which you grew up and what he very remarkably then said was but it isn't a faith and I said Peter I thought you believed it which was astonishing here was a world's leading philosopher who doesn't realize that his worldview is a belief system but the very interesting thing is the first person to talk to Peter after that lecture came from Peters background a Hungarian Jew and then he told Peter but I became a Christian so it's possible to change your worldview and I have seen people change their worldview so many times that I think that question is absurd and I don't believe it's necessarily indoctrination I think Richard Dawkins are seriously guilty of Ind to nation sometimes with is aggressive atheism what I would say is parents of course they should teach their children what they believe but at the same time they should teach them that there are other views and they should allow them to think and that's one of the reasons that when I left Ireland I didn't automatically throw away my belief in God as many of my contemporaries did because they'd never thought about it for themselves so I'm not worried about not concerned about that at all I just think that we've got to recognize that we start somewhere but the thing is why do I believe what I believe now what is the evidence for my worldview that's that's the crucial question oh well this 610 hours how long have you got I mean to explain they are the evidence for they for the existence of God and the reality of my Christian faith well very briefly first observed in my parents that their lives were real and in a sectarian country they were Christian without being sectarian so my father employed both Protestants and Catholics equally and we were bombed for it that was very impressive to me as a child because my parents believed that every man and women is made in the image of God so my first evidence of Christianity was it working in the lives of my parents I saw it working and then as I grew up I began to see that there was a very strong intellectual underpinning for it particularly in the sciences the whole history of science Copernicus Galileo Kepler all connected with belief in God and as I came to study that I so of course that makes perfect sense they believed in a creator so they believed you could do science you see but that's not the only evidence I don't believe God is a theory I believe he's a person so then there comes the revelation question that that if there is a God it wouldn't be surprising if he revealed himself so now come the evidence from the Bible and the evidence particularly for the deity of Jesus Christ and the resurrection and I'm a Christian for all the reasons I've just given plus perhaps the biggest of all in that I'm intellectually convinced that Jesus rose from the dead and I'm practically convinced in my life that the things that he offers and promises are real forgiveness peace with God a transformed life if we trust him I've experienced all that for over 50 years in in my family and so on so there's let me put it this way I think there are lots of objective evidences and there are lots of subjective evidences don't ask me to define those terms too carefully but roughly speaking that there's an intellectual underpinning but it actually works but that's only the start oh yes there are neither new New Atheists and their argument is simply this look this aggression is not good it's not helping even the Atheist cause because we're denying something that's obvious that religion is a very important source of meaning for many people now what we should do is take the best out of religion and just get rid of God as long as we get rid of God that's fine and you will find a big reaction against Dawkins and company many of my atheist friends will say to me look please don't confuse me with Richard Dawkins because we don't agree with this aggression now one of the most interesting people in this is Jurgen Habermas who's a leading intellectual in Germany and he wrote a book called uber Ganga in English translations where he said look I'm an atheist a methodological atheist but we must be very careful about this business of trying to eliminate religion because it's a very important source of meaning but secondly the judeo-christian tradition is our only source of ethics and morality and he adds to that a fascinatingly provocative statement he said everything else is just postmodern chatter well that's a wonderful belief but where's the evidence for that I mean we sometimes talk about a God of the gaps I think there's evolution of the gaps is a much bigger phenomenon how did it happen evolution did it but you haven't a clue how we did it we don't even understand consciousness let alone the essence of morality and to say it developed like this and this we just don't know from that perspective and I'm very skeptical I'm as skeptical about morality out of non morality as I am skeptical about rationality out of non rationality but that's a huge topic

30 thoughts on “Is it rational to believe in God? An interview with John Lennox

  1. Does any Christian or Theist want to engage in a debate/discussion through email with me? I am an atheist. I used to be a very devout Christian for about 19 years of my life. I am now 23. I became an Atheist after setting out to prove that God exists. I started out as wanting to find the truth, which I believed to be God. And I wasn't afraid of debating anyone on this topic because I honestly believed I had good reasons for believing in the Christian God, and later, in a "general" God/Gods. I would like to have this discussion with someone who is as convinced as I was and as interested in finding the truth as I was/am. For the record, I do not generally dislike the notion of the Christian God. For many years, I would have loved to find out that "he" was the true one. I do not hold that view any longer; but I want to rule out from the get-go that I am an atheist because I dislike the Abrahamic God. However, after freeing myself from the bias of defending God and wanting to love him, I have been able to realize a lot of flaws, contradictions and good reasons (I would expand on this if we get to talk) to believe the Christian God isn't so good. Thanks to anyone interested. If you respond to me, you should know my intention is to help you. And I am willing to change my mind if you present a compelling case for Theism, Christianity, or any other belief system that involves a God/Gods.

  2. The Christian faith all comes down to the résurrection of Christ. The early writtings of the apostles clearly explain what they witnessed with their own eyes. Now they were either liars or they were speaking the truth. If Christ rose from the dead and a whole lot of evidence shows that he did, well then this is supernatural mingling on a planet supposedly controled by the laws of physics and biology and chemistry. Why disbelieve the testimony of men unconcerned with the imminent threat of death. Why were these guys not afraid of going to their death??? Best read up on these guys and try to figure out whether or not they were telling the truth. I definitely believe their story, with their motive verses the skeptics and nay sayers raking in the cash from their disbelief.

  3. The problem with traditional Christian conclusions is that some of them maintain that God pushed a button 13.8 billion years ago then waited about 13.8 billion years to create a man and woman. The Christian theologian/philosophers say that the man and woman did the wrong thing. Actually, God wanted mankind to partake of the fruit. How is it that Christian scholars don't see that?

  4. It's unfortunate we have so many stubborn atheists that are so hyper skeptical that they miss basic historical facts proven by history. Christianity teaches ethics, and everything in between. Our society is based on this. But we are so secular, people believe they are their own masters of the universe/God. That is why society is collapsing in many areas.

  5. How smart are humans really when over 70% of the global population still believe in the imaginary magic boss in the sky – in the face of all the scientific discoveries which exposes religion to be a ridiculous Man-made mythology. It is long overdue for humanity to shake off, and even outlaw this ridiculous, evil mythological sorcery. Religion – all of them, are the greatest fraud in all human history.

  6. So i am aetheist. I live a good moral life, i don't eat meat cos i don't want to hurt animals, i don't buy from mainstream clothes shops cos they employ child labour, i don't buy from certain companies cos i know they pollute, in fact i try not to support any company that has bad practices, I don't have a car, i am minimalist so i don't use the earths resources, i try not to waste things. I think you get the message. Now my cousin is a christian, eats meat, buy way too many clothes from 'those' shops, has a car way too big for him, has a house way too big for him, but he prays and goes to church. So I'm going to hell and he isn't?

  7. you forgot faith in God based on any number of spiritual convictions or denominations including evangelical. you have no argument for Faith there is none. The faith that one has according to his spiritual convictions based solely his religion or self realization but usually founded on Biblical foundations.

  8. I am a Christian and I am going to offer evidence that God exists, the Bible is the truth, and that Jesus Christ is the way to eternal life. But I have two things to say first.

    1) There is evidence that Christianity is the truth but I will admit that believing in Jesus will always require a certain amount of faith.

    2) You have to be open to the possibility that God could exist and are looking for evidence. If you believe God doesn’t exist because you don’t want him to then any evidence presented probably won’t persuade you.

    The First Thing That Ever Existed:

    Let me ask you a question. What is the first thing that ever existed? Either the first thing that ever existed created itself and came from nothing or the first thing that ever was always existed and has no beginning. But something that doesn’t exist cannot cause itself to exist. It’s impossible. Its literally the exact same thing as saying a t.v. that doesn’t exist created itself and caused itself to appear in my living room. It’s irrational and it can not happen. People made the t.v. and put it in the living room. Never in the history of the universe has there been anything that has been scientifically observed to have created itself out of nothing. There is a virtually unlimited amount of scientific evidence that things that already exist cause other things to exist. The scientific proof is overwhelmingly on the side of things being created by things that already exist and not on the side of things that don’t exist causing themselves to exist. Therefore it is only logical to conclude that there is something that always was and has no beginning. God according to the Bible and Christianity is said to be a being that is eternal and has no beginning. This claim is backed up by the evidence of logic that there has to be something that always existed.

    The Return of Israel:

    In 132 A.D. Israel was defeated in the Bar Kokhba Rebellion against Roman rule. The Romans drove the Jews out of Israel. For almost 2,000 years the Jewish people were living in exile in foreign nations. This is established historical fact. In 1948 the nation of Israel was founded and became a nation again after almost 2,000 years. This is a miracle. No other nation in world history that has ceased to exist and been exiled has managed to become a sovereign nation again after such a long period of time. The thing is it was predicted in the Bible over 2,000 years ago. Ezekiel 37:21: Then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land. In 1948 this prophecy was fulfilled.

    The End Times: Running to and Fro:

    Daniel 12:4: But you Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase. Has this happened? Yes! This was written in the age of horses and bows and arrows. All you have to do is look at a highway and you will see many people running to and fro. With the rise of the internet knowledge truly has increased. This is a prophecy that has been fulfilled before our eyes and in a way hardly imaginable to ancient people.

    The Antichrist:

    In the end times the Bible says there will arise a man controlled by the devil who will rule the whole world. This man will demand worship and cause those who do not worship him to be killed. Revelation 13:16-17: He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. This was written in ancient times when the world was not a globalized and connected place and such a thing would not have been possible. In todays modern, global and interconnected economy money controls everything and I do mean EVERYTHING. Controlling who can buy or sell this is ultimate power. Nowadays without money you can’t do much. In todays global and technological economy you can now see how such a thing may be possible.

    Iran Attacks Israel:

    The Bible says that in the end times Iran and other nations will attempt to attack Israel and that God will supernaturally destroy their armies with fire and brimstone. Ezekiel 38: 2-8: Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold I am against you O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with buckles and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia and Libya are with them all of them with shield and helmet. (Iran was once known as Persia. It is easy to see how Iran and other nations could attempt to invade Israel. The hatred of Israel by many Iranians is a very real thing. It is not uncommon to hear people saying death to Israel in Iran. Iran’s leaders have in the past expressed their desire to wipe Israel off the map. Israel is currently surrounded by nations that hate it.) Gomer and all its troops the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops-many people are with you. Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your company that are gathered about you and be a guard for them. After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate, they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. (This was fulfilled thousands of years after it was written in 1948 when the nation of Israel was founded and the Jews returned to their own land after living for centuries in other nations. This part of the prophecy has proven true and in todays political climate the situation does seem to be going in the direction of an eventual attack on Israel. This should serve as evidence that the Bible is divinely inspired by God.

  9. Lennox is an extremely stupid brain damaged nonthinking religiot. He is too stupid to understand science.

    " Is it rational to believe in a god? "

    Of course not!

    It is irrational to believe in the existence of an imaginary powerless fat old desert fart made up by some stupid bronze age goat herders.

    Lennox is too stupid to understand logic.

    DNA is a chemical. Lennox is too stupid to understand chemistry.

    The universe is not " fine tuned ". Lennox is using words he is too stupid to understand.

    There is just one problem: Lennox lives in a bubble of childish fairy tales without connection to reality.

    Lennox is too stupid to understand thermodynamic.

    There are no gods! Jesus is a man made fairy tale figure that never existed.

  10. Atheists build their argument from the bottom up while theists build from the top down. Lennox misses the point that they both commence on the same metaphysical ground. He projects as strongly as the the atheists.

  11. I think there is the only one rational alternative to consider: 1) there is a supernatural, absolute being, the Logos, God who created the world or 2) it is the world, which is "god", but that "god" is not absolute (because it evolves and changes constantly) and we deal here with a kind of non-logical concept of an absolute. Im not in favour of the latter.

  12. It's interesting, I think the more important question to ask is, "Is atheism rational?" And I don't think it is. Because what atheism is arguing is that the human brain is the human mind, and is therefore the result of a blind, unguided, mindless, natural process.

    And if the thoughts in my head are simply the results of chemical reactions in my brain which is the product of such a process, why should I trust anything it tells me? Whereas, the theistic worldview tells us that the reason the human mind can understand the universe out there is because the same God is author of both; as Lennox has argued.

    The reason I don't find atheism convincing is just that, reason. If the thoughts in my brain are the result of chemical reactions, then I'm not reasoning, I'm just reacting. And that's not my opinion, this comes from Apologist Dr. Frank Turek.

    And it's even more interesting because Charles Darwin was the one to come up with this argument. He said, "With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed in the minds of lower animals are of any value or at all trustworthy." It's called 'Darwin's Doubt.'

    Alvin Plantinga, an American philosopher said, "If Dawkins is right that we are the product of mindless, unguided, natural processes then he is given a strong reason to doubt the reliability of human cognitive faculties. And therefore inevitably to doubt the validity of any belief that they produce, including Dawkins' on science and his atheism. His biology and his belief in naturalism would therefore appear to be at war with each other, in a conflict that has nothing at all to do with God."

    C.S. Lewis also said, "No line of reasoning can be valid that invalidiates reason."

  13. Very sad to see an intelligent person so deluded they think these are good arguments.

    I'll give him that the "fine tuning' argument is the best theists have – pathetically obvious that it's an argument from ignorance unfortunately.

    In the end these were such poor arguments I was surprised he didn't give us Pascal's Wager.

  14. "Is it rational to believe in God?"
    No, it is not rational to believe in [the] God [of the bible].
    Although he may be a very intelligent mathematician, John Lennox is deluded with his so-called "philosophy of science" nonsense and, of course (since he's an Irishman), the bible.

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